It was a typical Monday for Joe McGuire.
Check that. It’s pandemic time.
“I don’t know if the word ‘typical’ comes to mind anymore,” McGuire said. “It’s definitely been a wild ride, to say the least. The long and short of it … it’s been very unusual.”
Such is life for pretty most anyone these days. More so for a musician, thrust into the verboten level of participation thanks to state mandate. Live music — especially indoors — was the first to be banned and apparently last to be approved as the planet struggles with an elusive virus.
McGuire is co-founder of Afrolicious, a six-piece, high-energy fusion band of African, Latin and funk, with a grateful bow to Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Ray Charles, Nickodemus, Santana and Bob Marley.
The Southern California-based McGuire, 38, joins his mates scattered around California this Saturday for a 6 p.m. show — amazingly enough, a live show — from the Solano County Fairgrounds for promoter Greg Keidan’s second offering of “Cruise-In Concerts.”
Keidan was almost giddy coming off the Sept. 26 “Cruise-In” sell-out of 220 vehicles — at $99 a pop — to see Jerry’s Middle Finger, a Grateful Dead Tribute Band.
“I am now confident that my crew can pull off an event that looks and sounds incredible, and that we can work well with the venue staff,” Keidan said. “But I am still nervous about making sure that I remember everything, and it always seems to be more challenging for me to sell original bands vs. tribute projects.”
Kiedan’s itching to see how Afrolicious and opening act Lyrics Born fares.
“I like their positive messages and high energy dance vibe, and I like how they developed a real community of music lovers and musicians by putting on a weekly event for a decade in the Bay Area,” Keidan said. “I also felt inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement to try to do a better job of being inclusive of people of color in my bookings.”
McGuire eagerly-awaits Saturday’s show, though he’s not complaining about the extended time off from live performance.
“We’ve still managed to work on this record we hope to be putting out soon,” McGuire said by phone Monday afternoon. “We’d like to get it out by the election, but I guess we’d have to put production into overdrive. Hopefully, it’ll be out this year.”
Afrolicous managed to play an outdoor gig live in the minimally-pandemic impacted Nevada City, said McGuire. Other than a private outdoor home concert concert “and a couple of streaming things from the studio,” that’s been it.
Yet, don’t expect McGuire to be jumping off any bridge.
“I try not to worry when it will be ‘normal’ again,” he said. “You probably set yourself up for a letdown. Maybe, some day, live music will be appreciated even more than it was pre-COVID. I look forward to that day.”
McGuire refuses to fight the pandemic blues.
Acknowledging that “it’s terrible everybody is out of work,” McGuire said that “I don’t think I’m as frustrated as most musicians. I need a ‘creative moment’ in my life without the pressure of playing or measuring up. Some of it can be internal pressure. I don’t want to get stagnant trying to expand what you’re doing and sometimes it can be hard managing a band. I welcomed a little more space and time to think. It’s a good time to evaluate what’s important to humanity and culture.”
Keidan was actually in talks with Afrolicious about a “regular” music show before COVID-19 hit. Keidan returned to booking the band when he created the “Cruise-In Concerts” series.
Whether for people sitting in a theater, standing outdoors, or sitting in their cars tuning into the radio frequency to hear the band, “In one way, the approach is the same as always,” McGuire said. “It’s the connection with people, whether they’re inside their car or a normal scenario.”
McGuire believes most of those camping out in their vehicles Saturday haven’t experienced music in person since mid-March.
“Hopefully, they’ll be psyched to see a live show. We’ll be super-excited to play,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have the same chemistry as in a normal setting. But don’t dismiss the fact we’re in a ‘new era’ right now, that this (the pandemic) is serious stuff. It should be a collective joy.”
A Kansas City, Kansas, native, McGuire spent many years in the Bay Area before anchoring himself to Southern California, where he lives in San Pedro near Long Beach. He returns to Northern California often.
“I love the Bay Area — the vibe of the people, the way the cultures mix,” McGuire said. “The Bay is a magical place.”
Performing music is similar to playing sports, McGuire said.
“You’re trying to be in tune in the moment and be present. Solo is fun, but playing in a band, you tap into all these people,” McGuire said. “It should be a hard thing to do. But when you’re in the zone, it’s not too hard. You feel like it flows and it’s joyous. Some would say spiritual or exalting. It’s a higher level of energy. Like a runner’s high.”
The energy, feeling and intentions of Afrolicious are especially needed in 2020, says McGuire.
“We believe in healing through this music and believe in racial healing through this music,” he said. “We’ve seen and experienced first hand so much on the road. We just believe that. If people can somehow get exposed to each other’s ideas and stop all this rhetoric. It’s something we try to accomplish with our music.”
For more about Saturday’s 6 p.m. Cruise-In Concert and upcoming shows, visit mrhatpresents.com.